JOHNSTOWN - Both sides are expressing guarded optimism about a meeting Tuesday at which the city and its police union officials will discuss negotiations with a state mediator. Contracts talks are at impasse; the last union contract was approved in 2009.
"Negotiations were postponed with the city," Officer Eric Johnson, president of the Johnstown Police Benevolent Association, said Thursday.
The last three-year contract between the city and the PBA was approved in September 2009, but it was retroactive to 2007 and only lasted until the end of 2009. Since then, Johnson said, talks were delayed and impasse was declared. The last contract provided officers annual raises of 3 percent to 3.5 percent.
City Treasurer Michael Gifford, who sits on the city's negotiating team, said Thursday both sides will meet with a state Public Employment Relations Board-assigned mediator Tuesday at the Johnstown Public Library.
The Common Council went into a closed-door executive session Monday night at City Hall to discuss contract negotiations.
The mediator will hear proposals from both sides and offer a non-binding opinion. If mediation doesn't resolve the impasse, the next step in the PERB process would be binding arbitration.
Gifford said city officials are "always optimistic" a deal will be made, but he didn't want to say for certain that will happen.
"In the end, you can't make predictions," the city treasurer said.
Gifford said a 2 percent wage hike for union personnel in the city was built into the 2013 budget, which is "generally" the figure used pending a new deal.
Johnson expressed a desire to get a new five-year contract for the PBA, retroactively covering 2010-2012.
"The city has a responsibility, and obviously the union has a responsibility to the guys," Johnson said.
Johnson said monetary issues are important for this new contract, but the union also wants some other provisions and language in the contract, some related to benefits.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.